in hindsight taehyung can’t expect everyone to be responsive to his mannerisms. people have bad days. people are busy. sometimes people drank too much coffee and didn’t enough sleep and are walking zombies. it’s okay! it’s college!
it doesn’t make it less embarrassing though.
“so as you can see, the university prides itself for being such a diverse and open place! we have over two hundred campus organizations, so you’re guaranteed to find something you like– from greek life to dance clubs to cheese tasting, we have it all.”
there’s a giggle from the group of high schoolers following him as he gives a campus tour. taehyung deftly dodges the planter that he knows is right in front of the social sciences lecture hall as he smiles back. “i know, i love cheese too!”
honestly, besides cheese, taehyung loves his university. and he loves talking to people, so it was almost Fate when he finally became a campus tour guide. he loves getting to talk about campus and helping people find the right fit, because he definitely did.
“and don’t be afraid to socialize!” taehyung says, hearing someone on a penny board behind him before seeing them. he pauses for a moment to stick out his hand in the process and getting a satisfying high five and an amused smile from a girl as she zooms by.
“everyone here is really nice!” he high fives another passer-by, this time a guy in a suit. taehyung guesses it’s rush week again for fraternities. that poor boy.
and then he spots his next target– a tall broad shouldered boy in all black (seriously the guy is in a black sweater and black skinny jeans, it’s almost summer how does he live?), frowning down at his phone with a longboard tucked under his arm. he’s cute, and taehyung vaguely wonders whether he’s seen him before on campus, because he’d definitely remember that face.
“you can go up to anyone and they’ll be really welcoming,” taehyung insists and just when the boy is within reaching distance, taehyung shoots out his hand in front of the guy’s face. “high five!”
the guy gives taehyung the most disgusted look. “what the fuck? no,” and keeps walking past. taehyung watches in disbelief as his figure disappears into the crowd, and he vaguely registers that his hand is still up in the air, waiting for a high five that will never come.
“well,” taehyung says finally, cheeks tinged a bit pink. a kid in the back snickers. “not everyone is nice all the time. he was probably having a bad day. but that’s college!”
“oh my god oh my god i’m such a shitty person,” jeongguk groans into the couch pillow. currently he looks like a four month old fetus.
“relax, kookie. you probably just ruined a few kids’ prospects about this college, that’s all. it’s fine.”
“honestly thanks jimin. you’re the best.”
jimin pats his back in mock comfort. “that’s what i’m here for. to raise you up when you’re down.”
“god what the fuck. why the fuck did i do that.”
“it can’t have been that bad.”
jeongguk looks up from almost suffocating himself with the pillow– come to think of it, he doesn’t know how sanitary this is, considering he’s in jimin and namjoon’s apartment, they probably fucked on this couch– and gives jimin a withering look.
“the guy was smiling and waiting for a high five and i just looked at him all gross and said ‘what the fuck no’ and kept walking.”
jimin lets out a strangled laugh. “okay yeah that’s pretty shitty.”
“god i didn’t even think about it, i just said it. like, legit it was the first thing that popped into my brain! is this my true nature? is this what i’m meant to become? is this who i am?”
“god chill for a sec jeongguk. the last time you got this worked up about something was when you couldn’t get vip tickets to the big bang world tour last year.”
jeongguk lets out a strangled whine, burying himself further into the couch. maybe i can just die here.
“oh my god. was he cute? was the tour guide cute? is that why you’re so upset?”
jeongguk can only bring himself to glare from his position bent in a ninety degree position on the couch. the angles in his calculus textbook would be jealous.
“he was cute, wasn’t he? if you met him at a party or under some other situation you’d definitely be down to fuck, right?”
jeongguk is only capable of glaring at that.
jimin cackles. “but you didn’t meet him at a party did you? instead you were a total douche canoe and didn’t high five him back in front of a bunch of prospective school applicants. double whammy, ouch. you’ll never get into his pants now.”
“really, you should shut up hyung.”
jimin leans back in surprise at jeongguk’s use of the honorific. “whoa. he must have been really hot to get you this worked up. you have to point him out to me if you see him next time.”
“ha yeah right. like I’m stepping back onto campus in the next two years.”
“damn. you really want to bang him.”
“why do you assume that i want to bang him? i don’t spend every minute thinking with my dick, thanks.”
“apparently not. if you had been, maybe you would have just high fived him. maybe then you could have gotten his number, hm? maybe you would have been getting laid instead of getting disappearing into the couch where i got laid last--”
jimin deftly dodges the pillow jeongguk aims at his face.
taehyung considers himself a lucky person. he has a family who loves him unconditionally and fully supported his decision to become a theater major. he has hoseok and yoongi, who, despite being much older, taehyung considers them The Greatest Friends on the Planet (he got them both matching mugs last christmas).
hoseok is the big brother taehyung never had, his rock, and yoongi likes to grumble and fall asleep in obscure places, but sometimes he gives solid life advice if taehyung brings him good beer.
they’d been there for him during some of the hardest times, they knew him inside out, and he’s forever grateful. they look out for him.
not to mention he has a great job, a healthy social life, a budding acting career. it’s everything a guy could ask for.
but, in this moment, having just practically yelled “i am just a helpless dust bunny in the presence of your gas-powered leaf blower, oh master of my precious love hole!” into what he thought was an empty theater, taehyung reconsiders.
he listens to his voice carry through the auditorium for a moment, before he hears a loud thud, and then a “fucking shit fuck fuck,” and he realizes he is definitely not alone.
in taehyung’s defense, he’s just reading over what one of his friends in the script writing 2a class wanted to submit for a project. but maybe he shouldn’t have been reading it out loud in a theater where practically anyone could have walked in.
“who’s there?” taehyung calls out, squinting against the harsh stage lights in an attempt to make out a form, trying to calm his racing heart. he estimates he's lost three years off his life over this.
“shit sorry i didn’t realize-- oh,” the guy-- it’s definitely a guy-- stops in the middle of one of the isles. taehyung’s eyes finally adjust, and oh.
it’s no-high-five guy, in a tank top and sweats (both black, taehyung notes, despite the sheer ridiculousness of the situation), gripping what looks like a water bottle, and looking absolutely mortified.
“oh,” taehyung repeats, and there’s too much oh going around for his liking. there’s a lump forming in his throat, and for the first time, taehyung is at a loss for words.
“fuck, sorry i just--” no-high-five guy holds up the water bottle as though it’s some sort of explanation as to why he happened to overhear taehyung reading erotica at seven pm on a tuesday evening in an empty theater.
“sorry, i’ll just--” and before taehyung can even say anything else, no-high-five guy is bolting towards the door, and it closes with a thud that makes taehyung jump.
taehyung wonders if he’s doomed to embarrass himself in front of every cute guy he meets.
well, hoseok is a pretty cute guy. and taehyung’s done plenty of embarrassing things in front of him but somehow it doesn’t quite feel the same.
“don’t worry about this, taehyung. you’ll ace the audition,” hoseok says soothingly, patting taehyung’s back as he’s sprawled face down on the dance floor.
“but what if my jazz hands aren’t good enough? what if i’m not good enough?”
“taehyung,” the way hoseok says his name makes him feel like a petulant child. “you’re an amazing actor. your voice makes people want to give you their first born child. and your jazz hands are super enthusiastic. you know you’re going to get the lead. what’s the real problem?”
taehyung makes a vague gurgling sound at the back of his throat.
“i’ve made a terrible mistake.”
hoseok lets out a disbelieving laugh. “this is new. since when does kim i-regret-nothing taehyung regret anything?”
taehyung musters up enough energy to flop onto his back and pout up at the ceiling. he wonders how to word the situation properly.
“there’s this cute guy and embarrassing things keep happening.”
hoseok perks up, because it’s rare to hear taehyung talking like that. “a cute guy?”
“yeah,” taehyung means to say, but it comes out sounding strangled. “and i was reading something really embarrassing out loud when he walked in on me.”
“oh come on, it can’t have been that bad.”
taehyung turns his head to give hoseok a sad look. “the words ‘sweet love hole’ and ‘swelling man-sausage’ may or may not have been used.”
hoseok’s face drops into one of horror. “no."
taehyung lets out a pathetic whine and rolls on the floor again, wishing that the restless feeling inside him might get sucked out by the wooden floor through osmosis. is it called osmosis? he wouldn’t know, he’s not a bio major.
and hoseok worries for a moment. he’s only seen taehyung like this twice before, and it lasted for maybe an hour at the latest. but taehyung’s been in an odd mood all day.
“let’s go get ice cream.”
taehyung pauses mid-roll. “what.”
“let’s go get ice cream. and we’ll talk about this apocalyptic series of events.”
taehyung is weak for many things, one of which includes ice cream. he grins, immediately satisfied, because how can a person be upset at the promise of ice cream? “okay.”
so he lets hoseok heave him up off the floor (he’s still burnt out from two hours of jazz hands) and lead him through the maze of halls that makes up the dance studios. most of the rooms are deserted, but as they turn a corner, there’s an unmistakable thud of bass that reverberates through the walls.
hoseok is chattering about the party he’s planning to have on saturday and taehyung is half-listening. mostly he’s distracted by the music, and as they pass by the room where the sound is coming from, he leans close to peer through the small window on the door looking into the room. what he sees makes his mouth run dry.
it’s no-high-five guy, of course, in a low cut muscle tank and fitted sweatpants, snapback pulled on backward, basically eye-fucking the mirror as he does the tightest body rolls taehyung’s ever seen. his shoulders are broader than taehyung remembers, and he looks every bit unapproachable as that moment when he decided not to spare taehyung a high five.
“oh my god,” taehyung hisses. hoseok pauses in his steps and turns to stare incredulously.
“what? what’s wrong?”
“i need to pray,” taehyung whisper-moans, pressing himself against the wall and sliding down against it.
hoseok rolls his eyes, but at this point he’s used to taehyung’s theatrics. “what is it, taehyung?”
“it’s him,” taehyung nods. “oh god. oh jesus. buddha, vishnu, zeus, poseidon, oh god.”
hoseok’s eyes widen, and he points to the door of the dance room. “wait shit really? that’s the guy?”
taehyung nods fereverently, questioning his life choices that led up to this moment.
hoseok takes another look through the small window, and half-shrugs like he’s not very surprised. “honestly, that sounds like something jeongguk would do.”
taehyung lets out a smothered whine. “his name is jeon jeongguk. and he doesn’t have a facebook in case you planned on social media stalking him.” it’s taehyung’s way of getting over crushes, hoseok already knows.
“who says i was going to--” hoseok gives him an exasperated look, and taehyung smiles sheepishly. “does he at least have an instagram?”
no-high-five guy-- jeon jeongguk-- does, apparently, have an instagram, and taehyung manages to wrangle his id from hoseok pretty quickly.
“you would have just gone through my follower list and found it anyway,” is hoseok’s moral justification for giving taehyung this very vital piece of information.
taehyung doesn’t know why he’s doing this to himself. maybe he’s a masochist. and yet here he is, at three in the morning, with the covers pulled up over his face, scrolling through goldenjeon97’s instagram timeline, trying to muffle his sobs as he cries over how attractive jeongguk is.
taehyung considers himself an expert at analyzing social media, and jeon jeongguk’s instagram confirms what taehyung had experienced first hand last week-- jeongguk is ice cold. out of a total of two hundred and thirty four posts, there are only two of him smiling (no taehyung didn’t count), and in both of them, he’s holding a puppy, so taehyung can’t even blame him for that.
and the next closest things are the multitude of shirtless smirking mirror selfies that practically scream “i am a douchebag and i’ll probably want to play the twenty questions game and ask to fuck you without a condom”. but in honesty, taehyung is the only one screaming (he tries to muffle them the best he can-- yoongi is sleeping right next door), because ice cold high-five-deficient jeon jeongguk is ripped as hell and has fucking tattoos all over him and this looks like a disaster for kim i-regret-nothing taehyung. he is a guy, after all.
there are also a lot of pictures with someone with the name parkjimblejams (which might be a ridiculous id if taehyung’s wasn’t XxXunicorn_luver1234XxX). apparently they’re close, because if there’s something taehyung’s learned from gym rat hoseok is that friends who take shirtless flexing pics at the gym together, stay together.
taehyung knows he’s in too deep when he reaches the 72 weeks ago mark, and he’s on freshman jeon jeongguk. taehyung, ever the sherlock, deduces that jeongguk is two years younger than him, and feels proud because the last time he took a math class was in high school.
there’s a picture of jeongguk half-smiling (it’s not a full smile, so taehyung can’t include it in his tally), his teeth poking out a bit, and taehyung is reminded of a harmless bunny-- the kind that gives high fives regularly and doesn’t walk in on people reading erotica out loud in middle of the night. it’s terribly endearing, and taehyung double taps the picture in an attempt to zoom in, and realizes that the zoom function doesn’t work on instagram when the white heart shows up over the picture.
“fuck!” taehyung yelps, throwing the phone across his bed and scrambling out of his room, as though distance will separate him from the heinous crime he’d just committed.
“no no no no no,” taehyung repeats, eyeing his room door in horror and disbelief. yoongi bursts out of his own room, bleary eyed, and the back of his hair is sticking straight up. he looks ready to kill a man.
“taehyung, what the hell fucking shit goddamit--”
taehyung just looks at the older man with wild, desperate eyes, and yoongi pauses. he looks frightened enough that yoongi can sense it, even through his sleep-induced haze. “hyung, i’m going to die.”
jeongguk shouldn’t be up this late. he has an applied statistics exam at eight in the morning (because he’s a masochist and decided to double major in math and dance). he technically could be using this time to study but around one thirty he’d suddenly had the urge to chuck his graphing calculator at the wall so he decides to call it quits.
so he’s been lying in bed for the last hour, scrolling through twitter on his phone, when he gets an instagram notification.
XxXunicorn_luver1234XxX liked your photo
“what the hell…” jeongguk mutters, clicking on the app, because what kind of instagram id is that? and holy shit isn’t that picture from like two years ago?
jeongguk wonders whether he has another instagram stalker (you can’t have two thousand followers and not get a couple), and sighs, clicking on their id to go block them, but when he gets a better look at the profile, he almost drops his phone on his face.
“what the hell?” jeongguk hisses, scrambling to look closer at the pictures, because holy shit it’s that perverted campus tour guide (jeongguk’s still scarred from that one time at the theater. he just wanted to get his goddamn water bottle and he’d overheard almost twenty ways to say penis without saying penis. god why?).
and he still low-key feels bad about the whole high-five thing (every time he walks by the admissions office he side-eyes everyone) but he figured it would be something he’d just have to get over and move on. he didn’t anticipate… this. whatever this is.
slowly he realizes that it means two things-- first, perverted-but-cute- tour-guide guy had actively thought about him, enough to somehow find his instagram (jeongguk’s still trying to decide whether it’s creepy or convenient since jeongguk’s been thinking about him), second, perverted-tour-guide guy was stalking his instagram (which is satisfying).
“holy shit,” jeongguk huffs a laugh in disbelief. he can’t believe this. this can’t be real. he looks at his phone again, double checking that perverted-tour-guide guy really is as cute as he remembers (and it’s a hell yes he is) and hits follow. he’d made his move. now he just had to wait.
“so, any progress on your disaster crush?” hoseok asks, plopping down next to taehyung as he leans against the dance mirror.
“hyung. he followed me on instagram.”
hoseok almost chokes on his water. “he did what?”
taehyung shoves his phone into hoseok’s face, and hoseok grabs it, holding it further away so he can actually see the screen clearly. and there it is.
goldenjeon97 started following you
“how the fuck did that happen?”
taehyung laughs nervously. “i may have… accidently… liked one of his pictures from like… two years ago.”
hoseok lets out a long-suffering sigh. “one day i’ll stop being surprised by the shit you do.”
“but he followed me!” taehyung reminds. “what does that mean? it means something, right?”
“taehyung, you’re not an idiot,” hoseok almost can’t believe he has to spell this out, until he realizes that taehyung isn’t particularly experienced in this. in any other case, an instagram follow is not a big deal. but this is jeon jeongguk and jeon jeongguk doesn’t follow just anyone. “this is his way of saying he’s interested.”
hoseok’s never seen taehyung look so bewildered. “no.
taehyung looks down at his phone, lost. “it… doesn’t make sense? all i’ve ever done is embarrass myself in front of him. why would he be interested? why would he be interested in me?”
taehyung is a generally confident guy. he’s not afraid to put himself out there, and his quirky personality makes it easy for him to make friends. but one disaster relationship his freshman year had tarnished his self esteem when it came to anything outside a platonic relationship. and hoseok’s heart breaks every time taehyung doubts himself like this.
“because--” hoseok leans over to pinch taehyung’s cheek, and chooses his words carefully. “despite how weird you are, you’re also one of the sweetest, most genuine and kind-hearted people i know. not to mention you’re cute. who could resist you?”
taehyung is not meant to be an athlete, this he knows for sure. he had always considered himself fit but this is not the case as he runs down the halls of the dance studio, lungs burning from exertion. he bounds for hoseok’s usual room, clutching the large manuscript in his hands as sprints.
“hyung!” he yells as he yanks the door open, only to realize that it’s full of little girls (and a very disgruntled boy) in tutus. he scans the room for the instructor.
“hoseok?” he asks, and the instructor rolls his eyes.
“he’s in two fifty eight.”
“thank you!” taehyung calls as he lets the door slam behind him. he realizes with growing horror that he has to take the stairs, but he pushes forward, because he has The Most Amazing News.
once taehyung spots the right room, he makes a beeline for it. he can feel his hair matting against his forehead, and he has on his sweatpants backwards because he was in a rush to leave, but it’s just hoseok.
“hyu-ng… hyungie…” taehyung pants as he stops at the doorway. “hyung… i--” and taehyung wishes that this, of all the times, would be the moment that the ground would open up and swallow him whole because the person who turns around in surprise is definitely not hoseok.
taehyung wonders why he’s even surprised at this point because it seems like the university has a particular vendetta against him. maybe it’s because he ate all of hoseok’s meat last month and blamed yoongi.
“can i help you?” jeongguk asks stiffly, and despite his body looking loose limbed and sweaty from exertion, the temperature drops significantly, and he looks ready to pounce.
taehyung vaguely notes that this is the first time jeongguk is speaking to him without cursing. mostly, taehyung just wishes he could disappear.
taehyung is great with words. that’s why he’s a theater major.
“taehyung, i heard your voice, what’s--” taehyung looks over his shoulder and almost cries in relief to see hoseok appearing from one of the other rooms. taehyung’s eyes read over the number plaque on this room.
two eighty five. nice going taehyung.
“taehyung?” hoseok prompts.
“huh? oh yeah,” taehyung’s eyes dart to jeongguk nervously, before turning his attention back to hoseok and raises his manuscript. “i got the part!”
hoseok’s face brightens immediately, and he lets out a whoop before throwing taehyung over his shoulder. “i told you you’d get the part you punk!” he says, and taehyung hasn’t caught his breath from running but now he’s losing it all over again from laughing so hard.
taehyung’s in the middle of getting spun around when there’s an awkward cough. hoseok stops and slides taehyung back onto his feet.
“hey, jeongguk, sorry about that.”
“no, it’s fine.”
jeongguk looks anything but fine, face scrunched up in a mix of disdain and discomfort, but he masks it quickly as his expression turns blank.
hoseok scrambles to alleviate the odd tension in the room. “this is taehyung, i don’t think you’ve met him.”
taehyung’s eyes widen, and for a moment he wonders whether jeongguk remembers their meetings as clearly as he does. and the fact that jeongguk had followed him on instagram a week ago and taehyung had promptly forgotten to follow him back until this exact moment.
but jeongguk steps forward and holds out his hand. for a moment taehyung wonders what to do next, but hoseok nudges him forward.
“jeongguk. nice to meet you.” jeongguk says evenly. taehyung gulps.
“kim taehyung. nice to meet you too.” jeongguk’s hand feels absurdly large in his, and it’s ridiculously warm despite the ice in his eyes. taehyung doesn’t know what he expected.
it feels like they shake hands for longer than societally acceptable. maybe because taehyung is trying desperately to gauge how badly jeongguk must be judging him, and where they stand in this weird limbo of awkward college situations.
but then hoseok clears his throat and taehyung slips his hand away first, curling it into a fist behind his back.
hoseok tugs on taehyung’s elbow. “let’s go, tae.”
his voice seems softer somehow. taehyung nods and follows after. as he goes to close the door, he turns to say bye (he’s a decent person, alright?), but jeongguk’s already dived headfirst into whatever choreography he was working on before taehyung had barged in, eyes narrowed and focused, and taehyung doesn’t dare interrupt.
nice to meet you, he mouths as he goes, but it doesn’t feel particularly nice.
for the first time in a while (it’s only been three weeks), taehyung feels prepared. he really honestly feels like things can’t go wrong today, because he’s ready for anything life throws at him. and this is mostly because hoseok warned him what would happen ahead of time.
“jeongguk is going to be at the party,” hoseok says, hand on taehyung’s shoulder as though he might jump at any moment.
“what? seriously? oh fuck.”
“yeah. you’re welcome.”
so yeah, taehyung’s prepared. he’s got his lucky leather pants (the ones that make his ass look extra nice. he knows it’s true because yoongi said it right before he knocked out on the couch last month, so it must be true) and striped navy blue and white striped sweater. he’d spent more time than usual on his hair (a solid five minutes probably), and he’d even added some smudged eyeliner.
tonight, he’s going to redeem himself and sort out these ridiculous feelings. he’s going to prove that he can, in fact, function well in a normal social setting despite his track record, and he’s going to cut himself off and find closure before he forms some stupid crush that’s going to make him miserable. been there. done that.
“these parties are too loud,” yoongi clicks his tongue in annoyance as he leans against the kitchen counter, wincing as the bass throbs in the air around them. “honestly hoseok how do you even hear properly anymore?”
“oh please, like you don’t listen to music at full volume with your dumb studio-quality headphones constantly,” hoseok snaps, and yoongi just grumbles, taking another sip of the beer he’s been nursing for the last thirty minutes.
“this beer is shitty,” yoongi comments after a few moments.
“hyung why did you even come if you were just going to complain the whole time?” taehyung asks, swinging his legs as he sits on the counter. the party hadn’t gotten into full swing yet, and he had a process when it came to these things. normally he’d show up late, but he’d promised to help hoseok set up, so now he’s just waiting it out. and maybe waiting for jeongguk.
“because hoseok always looks nice in those pants,” yoongi says serenely. taehyung almost chokes. “if you tell anyone i said that i’ll burn your pokemon cards.”
“my lips are sealed.”
and that’s that. taehyung mulls over the idea of hibernating bear yoongi having the hots for walking sunshine hoseok and decides he needs some air before his brain explodes.
so he finds himself out at the back porch with a bottle of beer that he hasn’t actually taken a sip of, the music getting louder and louder and mixing with the chatter of people all around him. he loves this atmosphere-- he could lose himself in it-- and he closes his eyes for a moment, and he’s at peace.
taehyung senses jeon jeongguk before he even sees him. there’s a prickling at the back of his neck, and his breath catches. taehyung trusts his gut, and his gut is somehow telling him that jeongguk is here.
so he turns, and it feels like something out of a movie, the way jeongguk walks into the party. taehyung supposes the only thing missing is a massive fan so jeongguk’s hair can blow in the wind. it feels that dramatic.
jeongguk walks into the room the way (as cheesy as it sounds) a king enters his palace, like he owns everything and everyone. and in a black leather jacket, white v neck, and tight black pants that fit just right, taehyung might not be far out from the truth.
people literally stop what they’re doing to watch him walk past, and when he runs a hand through his perfectly gelled hair, taehyung swears something falls to the floor. maybe he’s exaggerating and he’s drunk and the alcohol makes everything seem sharper. he is a theater major after all, and he had a flair for the dramatic.
then again, taehyung hasn’t actually had any alcohol yet, but his heart is pounding so loud in his chest, and his body feels like it’s burning, and oh god am i that pathetic? it’s just like him to thirst after the last guy who’d ever want to put his dick in him.
taehyung almost doesn’t register it when hoseok walks up to jeongguk, who’d come in with a friend who taehyung registers as parkjimblejams from instagram, and they exchange greetings, before hoseok, points to taehyung, standing frozen smack dab in the middle of the parting crowd.
rest in peace me, honestly, taehyung thinks, as jeongguk’s gaze follows hoseok’s hand and when he finally looks at taehyung, his eyes widen just a fraction with recognition, before hardening.
“jeongguk, this is taehyung. you remember him, right?” hoseok asks, feigning innocence like he hadn't given taehyung jeongguk’s instagram in the first place.
jeongguk’s gaze sweeps down taehyung’s form, and there’s just as much judgement as reserved appreciation. he nods quickly.
“i’m jimin!” the guy standing next to him introduces himself, and taehyung breaks out of his statue form to shake his hand and smile.
“i’m taehyung. it’s nice to meet you!” he tries to keep his voice light, like he’s not being crushed by the weight of jeongguk’s gaze and his own burning humiliation. but he is a theater major, and he’s good at faking it.
“you’re really hot, wow,” jimin remarks, nodding his head like he’d been considering this for a long time. jeongguk whips his head down at jimin (jeongguk is fucking massive and jimin looks like a shrimp chip next to him) so fast taehyung worries for his neck muscles, and the glare that proceeds it is lethal.
jimin seems unphased, though, and taehyung supposes he and jeongguk must be really close if jimin can pretend like he’s not being roasted alive at this current moment.
“but i do have a bangin’ boyfriend, so i’m gonna go. nice to meet you taehyung! we should hang out some time!”
“s-sure!” taehyung manages to say in surprise before jimin bounds away into the crowd, losing himself in the mesh of grinding bodies.
with jimin gone, taehyung’s attention falls to hoseok out of default (because he can feel jeongguk’s eyes burning through him and he’d rather not have to deal with that). at least this time he looks hot, and he hadn’t used the words “puckered love cavern” or anything similar. taehyung considers it a small victory.
“so, yeah, i’m going to go find yoongi, he texted me a second ago,” hoseok explains, eyes darting between taehyung and jeongguk. “you two should talk a bit. i’ll see you both later, bye!”
and then, just like jimin, hoseok somehow disappears into the house, and taehyung is left alone at the mercy of ice prince jeon jeongguk and his heart won’t stop racing.
and the worst part is that taehyung’s not a person who gets embarrassed easily. but for some reason, he feels extra self-conscious in front of jeongguk right now, and he doesn’t even know the guy. all he knows is that he’s got a major case of butterflies in his stomach, and that jeongguk smells like tom ford cologne (this is not okay).
“hi,” jeongguk says, finally-- finally-- and taehyung looks up at him in surprise. jeongguk’s got his hands tucked in his pockets, looking out over the view from the patio, his face the picture of cool indifference.
“hi?” taehyung says tentatively, but it helps him find his voice. “hi!” and he smiles, letting out a small laugh, even though it’s a little forced. but it does the trick. it makes jeongguk turn his head to really look at taehyung, and his lip quirks upwards.
they stare at each other for a moment, the tension stretched out between them like a rubber band. taehyung’s thinking about every time they’ve met, and he wonders whether jeongguk is doing the same.
and suddenly, it snaps. just like that.
“oh my god,” jeongguk lets out a breathy laugh, sliding a hand down his face like he can’t believe he’s in this situation, and taehyung breaks out a fit of laughter. oddly enough, it alleviates any of the tension and awkwardness that was there before, and by the time they finally run out of breath, jeongguk’s leaning back against the railing, and taehyung’s resting his forehead against the pillar.
they stay like that for a while as everything settles, and it’s almost jarring how quickly things do.
“i don’t think i ever properly introduced myself,” taehyung says, voice still a little a rough around the edges. jeongguk quirks up a brow, obviously holding back a smile.
“i’m kim taehyung, i’m a fourth year theater major, cheese enthusiast, and i’m probably a gryffindor.”
hoseok, if he had been there, would have probably face-palmed. but taehyung thinks jeongguk looks nice like this-- fighting a losing battle trying not to smile. his eyes crinkle at the corners, and there’s a mirth in his gaze that’s missing in all the instagram photos taehyung’s scrolled through.
“hello taehyung,” jeongguk rolls the syllables of his name around like he’s tested it on his tongue many times before, and taehyung fights the shiver. “i’m jeon jeongguk, second year dance and math double major. my favorite cheese is probably cheddar, and i’m a slytherin.”
the thing about jeongguk is that he’s not who taehyung expected him to be. he's supposed to be an ice prince, but he's mostly just awkward. and he likes cheddar.
“i’m… uhm. sorry about the high five thing,” jeongguk says, looking down at his half-empty beer as conversation lulls for the first time in half an hour. they had gotten into a heated debate over the best cheese-- jeongguk still believes in cheddar, but taehyung is a gouda kind of guy. the party’s still in full swing, and taehyung vaguely wonders where hoseok is. “i had a long day, and it was just a knee jerk reaction, i’m not usually that mean.”
“that mean? alright,” taehyung laughs. “so you’re still mean, usually?”
jeongguk turns to him, smirking. “i have an image to keep.”
“oh? what’s that?” the words ice prince come to taehyung’s mind again. jeongguk turns to lean his hip against the railing, so he’s facing taehyung.
“the i-don’t-high-five-strangers aesthetic,” taehyung snorts at that. “obviously it didn’t work. i guess i didn’t give off that vibe in that moment.”
“obviously not. but are you really complaining?” and for a moment, taehyung wonders where the hell that came from. he doesn’t know how to flirt, he doesn’t know how to do this. he doesn’t even want to do this.
but jeongguk just takes it in stride, eyeing taehyung up and down and before taking a sip of his beer. “definitely not.”
there’s an odd feeling creeping under taehyung’s skin, with words that sound like a foreign language lodged in his throat. the way jeongguk looks at him makes him half glad he spent more time on his hair tonight, and half want to run away and never have to deal with whatever is happening to him right now.
i don’t even know the guy, taehyung realizes miserably. jeongguk is definitely more taciturn than him-- taehyung had practically spilled his entire life story, but he hardly knew anything about jeongguk.
“the theater department’s putting on a musical in two months, right?” jeongguk asks, dragging taehyung away from his thoughts.
“yeah!” taehyung says, a little too forcefully.
“you’re in it, aren’t you?”
taehyung’s eyes widen. “how did you know?”
for a moment, jeongguk looks like he doesn’t know what to say. so he takes a sip of his beer and looks out over the railing again, shrugging his shoulders. “heard it in passing. i think hoseok hyung mentioned it.”
“you should come!” taehyung suggests, surprising even himself. what the hell am i doing? “i’m the male lead, you’ll get to hear me sing and do some rad jazz hands,” taehyung raises his eyebrows suggestively, waggling his fingers for emphasis, because he can never miss an opportunity to publicize, and jeongguk’s smiling again.
“i definitely won’t miss that then,” the way jeongguk says it makes it sound like a very real promise, one that two (almost) strangers at a party don’t usually make. taehyung doesn’t like promises, but he finds himself wanting to believe that jeongguk will stick around long enough for it to come true.
“be careful, i’m probably going to wrangle you into helping me practice my lines.” and taehyung wonders whether he’s crossed a line, with himself and his boundaries. with jeongguk. the plan was to end this.
but i want him to stay.
“only if you show me how to do those rad jazz hands.”
maybe they’re not friends. but they’re somewhere in the process, taehyung realizes with surprise. this isn’t how he expected this to go. and despite jeongguk looking like he would cut a bitch at a moment’s notice, his smile makes taehyung feel so warm inside. he feels safe. and it’s terrifying.
“deal,” taehyung nods, and jeongguk does that terrible half-smirk in satisfaction. they’re silent for a moment, and taehyung takes the pause to internally freak out because he just did what he told himself never to do.
“wanna dance?” jeongguk asks, and his voice is light but his eyes are heavy. taehyung forces himself to smile. get over yourself, kim taehyung.
“sure, why not?” he shrugs, and sets down his drink on a table nearby before following after jeongguk onto the dance floor. despite this being a terrible idea, taehyung hopes it’ll help him get over this mess of feelings. “i’ll warn you now, though. i’m not very good.”
and it’s true. taehyung finds it hard to want to dance with anyone anymore. he used to love it. and now the intimacy scares him. and he never knows if he’s doing it right or not.
jeongguk grabs his wrist and pulls him close. it catches taehyung by surprise and he stumbles into jeongguk’s arms, hands pressed against his solid chest. at some point jeongguk had discarded his jacket, and the way his shirt stretches across his shoulders and biceps is mouthwatering. taehyung elects to ignore it because it’s Not Helping.
“doesn’t matter,” jeongguk murmurs, and taehyung almost doesn’t catch it over the music blaring around them. taehyung feels jeongguk’s hands slide down his own, and he lifts them, situating them around his neck before gripping taehyung’s waist and pulling him flush against him.
taehyung vaguely wonders if this-- this feeling of being consumed-- is how all of jeongguk’s dance partners felt like. he doesn’t kid around, rolling his hips against taehyung’s, pressing their foreheads together. taehyung breathing stutters in surprise, eyes flickering up to jeongguk’s in question, but he doesn’t really know what he’s asking.
jeongguk seems to sense his unease though, because his hands move to slide up and down taehyung’s back almost soothingly, but it doesn’t really help, because it just seems too intimate, and taehyung’s so lost.
but jeongguk goes so slowly, guiding taehyung through it like it’s his first time, and it takes taehyung a minute to get over himself, the embarrassment, the self-consciousness, and focus on the heat of jeongguk’s gaze on him, how good it feels to have someone on him like this because it’s been so long.
“fuck,” jeongguk says under his breath, pressing his nose against taehyung’s cheek when taehyung tugs at his hair. he hardly registers what he did and why he did it, and for a moment he’s confused as to how jeongguk got so close, how his lips got so close to the corner of taehyung’s mouth.
taehyung’s heart leaps into his throat when he realizes how fucking intimate this situation is, and how frighteningly good it feels. he can’t do this.
“i can’t do this,” taehyung whispers, and he’s thankful for how loud the music is because jeongguk doesn’t catch it. he sees hoseok out of the corner of his eye, and his entire body freezes. jeongguk pulls away quickly, eyes concerned.
“you okay?” taehyung more reads jeongguk’s than actually hears him. he gulps.
“no, i just. i realized i have to go.” taehyung pushes at jeongguk’s chest, and he’s let go immediately. “i just. i have to go.”
“i just… i don’t know hyung i just panicked,” taehyung sighs, tucking his head into his arms on the table.
“honestly, i’m surprised you two even ended up talking as long as you did,” hoseok admits. “the fact that you ended up dancing with him…” hoseok takes a sip of his soda. “it’s a step in the right direction, tae. i’m proud of you for putting yourself out there.”
“yeah but why did it have to be him? why couldn’t i have started this stupid healing process or whatever with someone else?”
“first off, this stupid healing process is important. second, it happens when it happens, it’s not like going to the store or something. third, this is a good thing, taehyung. don’t beat yourself up over it, it’s not the end of the world.”
taehyung makes a disgruntled noise into the sleeve of his sweater. he’d bought a slice of pizza and it’s still sitting in front of him, untouched. normally taehyung can inhale anything, but right now, he doesn’t have an appetite. after basically ditching jeongguk he’d locked himself in hoseok’s room until the party was over, crying into hoseok’s sheets, until yoongi had found him, and got into bed as well and let taehyung cry into his shirt instead of the linens.
he still feels stupid about it, so terribly stupid, and he just wants to lie in the grass and look at the clouds for the rest of eternity.
“i know you liked him--”
“that’s an overstatement, hyung,” taehyung snorts, and theres an uncharacteristic bitterness to his voice.
“there was an interest,” hoseok rephrases carefully. “a curiosity, lets call it.”
taehyung blows at his bangs.
“it’s okay. it’s still progress. you liked it right? dancing? it felt good to dance with someone.”
“i… guess.” taehyung can feel a lump forming in his throat from the frustration. “but i…”
“you wish you could do it again. with him,” hoseok extrapolates. taehyung is silent. “my suggestion is--”
“hoseok hyung?” a voice calls out from the other side of the cafeteria, and taehyung and hoseok both turn to see jimin waving at them frantically, with, to taehyung’s horror, jeongguk in tow.
“oh my god, taehyung, you too? what are the odds?” jimin says when he stops by their table.
“haha yup,” taehyung forces himself to smile, and dutifully sets about ignoring jeongguk. what the hell are the odds.
“mind if we join?”
hoseok gives taehyung a look, like he’s asking whether he’s okay with this, but what is taehyung supposed to say? i’m sorry i ditched you on the dance floor i almost had a panic attack afterwards so you can’t sit with us.
“no, go for it,” taehyung says, motioning to the empty seats. he’s not even minutely surprised when jimin slides into the booth with hoseok, and jeongguk sits down next to him. he's gotten used to being in these situations at this point.
“hey,” jeongguk says hesitantly. taehyung can only give him a small, forced smile before boring holes into his pizza and consider teleportation. maybe i can turn into a slice of pizza. pizza doesn't have panic attacks, right?
“that was quite a party, hyung,” jimin says, starting up the conversation almost immediately as he and jeongguk open up their to-go bags and take out their burgers.
“love how you didn’t stick around for clean up,” hoseok shoots back, and jimin just brushes it off, laughing.
“shit,” taehyung hears jeongguk curse under his breath, and he turns in concern.
“what’s wrong?” he asks, despite his simmering embarrassment. jeongguk looks up at him in surprise, like he didn’t expect anyone else to hear that.
“what? oh,” he points at his burger. “forgot to tell them to take out the tomato.”
“what?” taehyung asks, embarrassment forgotten in this moment of supreme judgement. “you don’t eat the tomato?”
jeongguk curls his mouth down into a frown. “it’s gross why do people eat it in the first place?”
taehyung makes a scandalized noise at the back of his throat. “i cannot believe this…”
“if you’re so worked up about this why don’t you eat it yourself?” jeongguk says in exasperation. taehyung lights up almost immediately.
“oh my god really? can i?” jeongguk nods, pushing the burger towards taehyung.
“my hands are clean, i promise,” taehyung assures jeongguk, who just shrugs, and watches as taehyung carefully picks out the slice of tomato and shoves it into his mouth.
“delicious,” taehyung says, smacking his lips after he finishes chewing. “you’re weird.”
“am not,” jeongguk shoots back, picking up his burger, now tomato free. “you’re weird.”
“please, you put cheddar cheese in your sandwiches.”
“at least i don’t use gouda. what kind of cheese is gouda anyway? it tastes like bacon. why don’t you just use bacon?”
“i’ll have you know--”
“okay children,” jimin cuts in before taehyung can respond, and he looks between the two of them oddly.
taehyung smiles sheepishly before picking up his slice of pizza and taking a bite. conversation flows a lot better than at the beginning, and taehyung, for a brief moment, forgets his anxiety, and lets time slip away from him.
hoseok’s words make the whole table go quiet. taehyung pauses from stealing one of jeongguk’s fries (technically it's not stealing since jeongguk's letting him have them anyway).
“don’t you have tours to give all afternoon?”
taehyung’s eyes widen, and he checks his phone. 12:30, it reads. he has to be at the admissions office by twelve forty five, and it’s a thirty minute walk to campus.
“fuck, i’m gonna be late,” taehyung hisses. he’s never tardy, so he’s sure they’ll be lenient with him. he just wishes he didn’t have to break his stellar attendance record, now of all the times.
“you need to get to campus?” jeongguk asks. taehyung nods miserably. “i can drive you if you want.”
“no, god no i don’t want to bother you,” taehyung shakes his head vehemently.
“seriously, it’s no problem. i have class at one anyway. i can drop you off.”
jeongguk smiles and nods, dumping all his trash onto his tray and making to get up. “really really.”
“my savior,” taehyung says, scrambling after jeongguk. he waves to hoseok and jimin before following jeongguk out the door and into the parking lot.
jeongguk drives a black toyota camry-- it’s modest, but impressive, considering taehyung doesn’t even own a bike. it’s clean, and there’s a long board in the back (which taehyung vaguely remembers jeongguk holding during their first… unfortunate interaction).
when he turns on the ignition, orange caramel’s ‘my copycat’ starts blaring through the speakers, and taehyung jumps in surprise, while jeongguk scrambles for the volume control.
“sorry, jimin called dibs on the radio,” jeongguk says, and once taehyung’s sure his heart rate has returned to normal, he manages to laugh, because jeongguk looks like he’s just divulged one of his deepest darkest secrets.
“no it’s okay, i love this song!”
and taehyung ends up belting it all the way to campus, dancing along as best he can (he slams his hand against the window during the first chorus), and then exid right after. jeongguk stays silent, but there’s an amused sparkle to his eye as he stares at the road.
“we’re here,” jeongguk says finally, stopping the car in front of the flagpoles by the admissions office.
“that was really quick,” taehyung says, surprised. he looks at the dashboard clock and he still has seven minutes to spare.
“everything’s faster when you have a car.”
taehyung nods. “true that.”
he grabs for his backpack at his feet, and goes to open the door.
“hm?” he turns to jeongguk, who looks like he’s trying to pick his words carefully.
“we’re… okay, right?”
taehyung blinks, until he realizes that jeongguk’s referring to two nights ago when taehyung had practically fled. a rush of panic courses through taehyung, remembering the feeling of crushing anxiety in that moment. he’d forgotten about it for a bit, but he realizes that no matter how distracted he gets, things will still be the same.
“oh. yeah, i’m… really sorry about that. there was something else going on and i was--”
“you don’t have to explain yourself to me.”
taehyung pauses from his rambling. “what?”
“you don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to, taehyung. just… let me know if i did anything to make you uncomfortable. if i did--”
“no, no! you didn’t i just--” taehyung looks down, playing with the spongebob keychain on his backpack zipper. he forces himself to smile. “trust me, you didn’t do anything.”
jeongguk nods, face still blank, but there’s relief in his eyes. “okay. that’s good then. let me know, though? if i ever cross a line?”
and there it is again. jeongguk talking like they’re friends. like he wants to stick around for longer than anything past this one car ride.
are we friends? taehyung wants to ask. can they be friends? and the same feeling from last night finds its way under his skin again.
“o-of course. yeah, sure.”
taehyung opens the door, but jeongguk’s talking again. “we should trade numbers,” and he watches taehyung’s eyes widen in surprise, before scrambling to explain. “in case you need an emergency ride. or something. or if you want to go get coffee sometime.”
so taehyung puts his number into jeongguk’s phone, and sends himself a string of fruit emojis, before handing it back.
“thanks for the ride, jeongguk,” taehyung says.
taehyung gives him another smile before finally stepping out of the car, and closing the door behind him. he waves, and jeongguk gives him a thumbs up. the jittery feeling is still there, but now he has to go work, so he forces himself to compartmentalize and turn away.
are we friends? taehyung wonders again, as he pulls open the door to the admissions office.
and in his car, jeongguk sits there, long after taehyung’s form has disappeared into the building, asking himself the same thing.
“so, how’s your cutie boyfriend?” jimin asks, plopping down on the couch next to jeongguk. there are papers strewn all over the coffee table, with symbols and equations that jimin thinks would be more appropriate carved into the walls of atlantis.
jeongguk’s head shoots up with lightning speed. “what?”
“taehyung?” jimin pokes jeongguk’s side teasingly, but he sobers up immediately when jeongguk’s body tenses.
“he’s not my boyfriend,” is jeongguk’s clipped response. “why would you assume he’s my boyfriend?”
“well, i mean. you two seemed pretty cozy yesterday at lunch. and you don’t offer to drive just anyone. hell, i have to practically get on my knees to get a ride in your camry.”
jeongguk’s shoulders hunch. “he’s not my boyfriend.”
“the way you were looking at him earlier makes me think there’s something going on though.”
“there’s nothing going on.”
“you two seemed to get along fine at the party. don’t think i didn’t see you two dancing.”
jeongguk snorts bitterly. “well then you missed the part where he practically ran away screaming like, a minute later, so.”
jimin’s eyebrow quirks up in question. “so you didn’t get laid? that’s weird, he seemed really into you. i mean. he stalked your instagram.”
jeongguk cringes. “that was never the intention, jimin. why do you make everything sound so damn crass?”
jimin snorts. “because that’s what you’re usually like. you love sex! you have no problem getting it from anyone.”
at that, jeongguk’s face scrunches in distaste as he picks on a stray thread of a couch pillow. realization dawns on jimin rather quickly.
“oh my god do you like him? like, like like him?”
“no,” jeongguk denies vehemently. “i don’t even know him, alright?”
“but you want to,” jimin pushes, half disbelieving. in the two years he’d known jeongguk he’d seen jeongguk go from hookup to hookup, never looking back. jimin knows how convenient they can be. but now he has namjoon and it makes him wonder how he could do one night stands when long term intimacy feels so much better? to him at least.
that’s a confession, in jimin’s books.
“but he doesn’t-- he’s not--” jeongguk struggles to find the words.
“you don’t want to get friendzoned?” jimin fills in. jeongguk winces at the term.
“no, what the fuck? i’m not nice, but i’m not a total fuckboy, okay? friendzoning is bull shit.”
“so what? you’re suddenly going around offering rides to everyone?”
“that’s not what i said,” jeongguk exhales sharply. “he’s nice, alright? he’s nice to be around, and he’s funny. he’s…”
jeongguk makes a vague gesture in the air in front of him. “yeah i guess.” he then picks up his calculator again, and jimin knows the conversation is done. he considers this a huge win, though. normally jeongguk is tightlipped about anything having to do with feelings.
“just… if you two do become friends, be careful, alright? i know you think you’re invincible with your iron heart or whatever, but just. be careful.”
“i know what i’m doing, jimin.”
jimin hopes, for jeongguk’s sake, that it’s true.
they do, eventually, go get coffee, about a week after jeongguk had given taehyung a ride. they had been texting solidly until four the night before, and they’re both in desperate need for caffeine.
“this my favorite place,” taehyung explains, unravelling the fire engine red scarf from around his neck. it had rained today, unexpectedly, but nothing could dampen his mood right now.
jeongguk lets out a small laugh. “mine too.”
“really?” taehyung can’t keep the surprise out of his voice. “how did we go a whole two years and not bump into each other even once?”
jeongguk wonders that too, considering everything. maybe it was fate. maybe he was meant to not give taehyung a high five that day. he just shrugs, though. “do you need a minute to look at the menu?”
taehyung shakes his head no as they settle into their table. “i get the same thing every time i come here.”
“oh?” jeongguk prompts.
“double caramel hazelnut macchiato with chocolate sauce,” he explains.
jeongguk blinks. “that sounds like diabetes in a cup.”
taehyung laughs. “i burn a lot of calories giving tours. did you know the campus is a mile and a half long? yeah, imagine walking that five times a day.”
“okay, you win,” jeongguk grins. “i’ll go order.”
“no, it’s fine! i can do it,” taehyung tries, but jeongguk shakes his head.
“my treat. for not high-fiving you that one time.”
and taehyung can’t help the smile that spreads across his face as he watches jeongguk stride up to the counter. he looks painfully handsome today, in a black peacoat that spreads over his shoulders, and a grey beanie. it’s the perfect contradiction of classy and punk, taehyung thinks. it’s just like jeongguk himself. he looks like he would be completely unapproachable, the ice prince, but taehyung feels so warm around him. taehyung likes to make people smile-- he’s good at it too-- but he could rarely find someone who could make him smile so much in return. but jeongguk had managed to do that without even trying.
there’s that word-- crush-- swirling around in his head and in his stomach. but taehyung’s prepared to wait it out, let it pass as he knows it will eventually, because he’s learned the hard way that someone returning feelings for him is an impossible dream.
so he choses to ignore the butterflies, the sense of safety, that surges through him, when jeongguk returns with their drinks-- he’d gotten a latte (which taehyung declares to be the most boring drink in the world), and sets the macchiato down in front of taehyung.
“ah, i love this so much,” taehyung says, taking a very satisfying sip of the warm drink and closing his eyes.
“i can tell,” jeongguk stares at him over his own mug.
“i have this every friday,” taehyung explains. jeongguk raises an eyebrow in question. “that’s when i give tours all day and then i have rehearsal until midnight.”
jeongguk lets out a sharp laugh. “wow okay. everything makes sense now. how do you survive?”
“this,” taehyung points to the coffee. “and enthusiasm!”
“never doubt the power of enthusiasm,” jeongguk nods sagely.
“what about you? how do you survive, mr. double-major?” taehyung rests his cheek in his palm. jeongguk takes a sip of his drink, face serious.
“who says i survive?”
taehyung snorts. it’s probably not particularly attractive.
“you look fine to me.”
jeongguk puts his mug down. “yeah, but see? it’s all part of my i-don’t-give-high-fives-to-strangers aesthetic. image is everything.”
“okay, true,” taehyung concedes, and he raises his mug to his lips again. his cheeks hurt from smiling so much.
they end up at the coffee shop for the next hour, just talking (taehyung spends most of the time laughing though). they only decide to leave when jeongguk realizes he has an intermediate hip hop class to teach in half an hour, and taehyung has lecture.
he offers to drop taehyung off, and taehyung can’t say no. when they part ways again, they’ve already made plans to study together at jeongguk’s apartment on campus the next day. taehyung goes to class that day feeling light, despite the heaviness brewing in his chest.
i have a crush on jeon jeongguk, he realizes. he just hopes that admitting it to himself will help him get over it faster.
hey are you free?
jeongguk gets the message right as he walks out of his lecture. it’s his last one of the night, and jeongguk just wants to go home, binge eat leftover rice, and sleep.
but it’s taehyung who’s sent the message.
i am now. whats up? jeongguk types and sends it quickly.
meet me in the theater!!! taehyung shoots back. jeongguk’s clear on the other side of campus.
ten minutes, he sends, and braces himself for the walk. he doesn’t mind it though. he’s starting to get the hang of taehyung’s whims in the last month, from ramyun runs at two in the morning, to watching sports anime in the library in the middle of the day.
he pulls the door of the performing arts building open, and walks briskly through the lobby before slipping into the actual theater.
“jeonggukie!” taehyung says brightly, bounding down the aisle to stop in front of jeongguk. he’s still trying to get over the pet name. “i’m glad you’re here. take this.”
“taehyung… ” jeongguk says hesitantly, grabbing what’s obviously a script as taehyung shoves it into his arms.
“what’s going on?”
taehyung waves his hand in the air between them dismissively. “i just need you to help me do a reading of a script. no big deal.”
the last time he’d seen taehyung read out a script, taehyung had said “oh master, sheath your sword in my hot cavern of love,” and jeongguk still has nightmares about it.
“it’ll be fine, jeonggukie, i promise,” taehyung insists, dragging him up onto the stage and to the center. “this play is very safe for work. kind of. i mean. yeah, it’s fine. just,” taehyung adjusts jeongguk’s body to his liking. “there. perfect.”
taehyung lifts up his script. “turn to page ten,” he instructs, and jeongguk, with great trepidation, does as he’s told.
“okay, so you’ll start with the first line on the page.”
jeongguk scans over the words, and realizes the nature of the scene. “wait, what the hell is this?”
taehyung frowns down at the paper. “a script, obviously? i just need someone to say the lines so i can pick up my cues. are you okay with that? we don’t have to do it if you don’t want to.”
and jeongguk considers calling it quits-- because this script is ridiculous, and he doesn’t want to make a fool out of himself-- but taehyung’s pouting, and jeongguk is so incredibly weak and so terribly foolish.
“no, it’s fine,” jeongguk forces himself to smile, and the way taehyung’s smile lights up his face is worth whatever trouble this might cause.
“okay good,” there’s a pause, like taehyung’s waiting for something. “well? go on,”
“oh,” jeongguk’s line is first. of course. “right, yeah.”
he reads over the words again and clears his throat awkwardly. “oh please, my darling, don’t leave me,” he reads off flatly.
“but i must,” taehyung says, putting his hand on his forehead dramatically. “i cannot stay. for if i do… it will just hurt more.”
“oh, my sweet pumpkin pie with vanilla ice cream on top,” jeongguk loses his voice for a second. he gulps. “you rule my heart, the way jay z and beyonce rule the music industry, the way nestle owns eighty percent of california's depleting water supp--” jeongguk puts the script down in exasperation. “okay taehyung who the fuck wrote this?”
taehyung smiles at him sheepishly. “i’m testing out my script writing skills.”
“you’ve got to be kidding me,” jeongguk says, and taehyung looks affronted.
“i’m serious. i’m trying to hone my abilities. if you don’t want to keep going you don’t have to.”
but the thought of letting taehyung down is enough to make jeongguk stay. “no, it’s. it’s fine.”
taehyung beams. “thank you.”
jeongguk fights off the migraine and picks up where he left off. “my sweet baby bottle pop, tell me what i can do to make you stay.”
taehyung steps up close, and practically hangs off jeongguk’s shoulder. “tell me you love me!” for a moment, jeongguk is stunned at the proximity. taehyung waits with wide eyes, and jeongguk can see flecks of gold around his irises.
“tell me you love me,” taehyung whispers, and jeongguk gulps. he glances down at his script, and he feels ridiculous.
“my love for you burns hotter than the sun, which is very hot.”
and jeongguk is trying to keep a straight face, but taehyung’s face is turning red from trying to hold back his laughter. eventually, he does crack, and he falls to the ground with a loud thump.
at least jeongguk can say he didn’t go down first.
“j-jeongguk,” taehyung wheezes, sprawling himself over jeongguk’s torso as they both lie on the stage. “don’t ever become an actor, okay? you’re the worst.”
jeongguk doesn’t have enough energy to be offended. “as long as you don’t become a writer.”
taehyung lets out another laugh, and he raises his head up to look at jeongguk, sticking out his hand. “pinky promise?”
jeongguk lets out a disbelieving huff, but links their fingers together. “pinky promise.”
somewhere at the back of his mind, jeongguk decides he likes the weight of taehyung on his chest. he’s so warm, and he’s staring down at jeongguk, smiling the most beautiful smile. jeongguk’s a goner, he knows it.
and then jeongguk realizes that they’ve been staring at each other for longer than what might really necessary, and he clears his throat. taehyung’s eyes widen a fraction, and he scrambles off of jeongguk.
the moment had shattered, and jeongguk’s scrambling to pick up the pieces, as taehyung edges away from him. the thought of taehyung not wanting to be physically close to him practically knocks the air from his lungs, but he pushes the selfish thought aside.
“want to go get fries?” he asks, instead of the millions of burning questions swirling inside his head.
taehyung smiles at him, soft and hesitant. it’s not a look he’s used to seeing. “sure.”
jeongguk invites taehyung to one of his dance competitions.
they’ve known each other for a solid month and a half now, and taehyung considers it standard friend protocol. and taehyung’s been dying to see jeongguk dance properly, since the first time, it was through a small window for a few seconds, and right after, he’d had a meltdown, so taehyung doesn’t consider it legitimate enough.
he’d been to a couple events like this before, to see hoseok, but those had stopped once hoseok had become a full time instructor at the dance studio, finding his calling in training young hopefuls instead.
the atmosphere is nicer than taehyung remembers-- he likes the constant energy of the crowd, feeling people close to him. it makes him feel… less alone.
“hey, taehyung, is that you?” a voice calls out, and taehyung turns to see jimin approaching him.
“oh, hey!” taehyung grins.
“fancy seeing you here. i didn’t know hoseok was performing today.”
taehyung shakes his head. “he's not. jeongguk invited me.”
“oh,” surprise colors jimin’s voice. “really? he invited you?”
taehyung blinks. “yeah, is that weird?”
“no, not at all. not weird.” jimin says, but taehyung isn't convinced.
“shouldn’t you be up there too?” taehyung asks, not liking the odd way jimin’s looking at him.
“nah. twisted my ankle last week,” jimin lifts up the leg of his pants to show off the ankle brace. “that’s why jeongguk’s doing a solo piece this time.”
taehyung nods in understanding, and he goes to respond, but he gets cut off when the event finally starts, and he gets distracted by the performances.
the solo pieces are towards the end of the night, and even after a solid two hours of cheering, taehyung still doesn’t feel burnt out. the energy just perpetuates itself.
when the mc calls out jeongguk’s name though, taehyung’s body goes still. suddenly, he’s terrified, but he’s not the one going on stage. he’s nervous for jeongguk, and he prays to every deity he can think of off the top of his head that jeongguk does alright.
it turns out the prayers aren’t needed, because jeongguk comes onto the stage like he owns it. he’s in black skinny jeans and a tight tank top, and the moment the music starts playing, taehyung understands the clothing choice.
jeongguk controls his body with such precision, willing every muscle, every limb to move exactly as he wants it too, and the tightness of the clothing makes it easier to see how smooth and refined his movements are, the way he moves to the hits of some r&b song taehyung’s never heard.
taehyung can practically see the lust dripping off of jeongguk’s form, black rimmed eyes sweeping across the crowd and leaving heat in their wake. for a moment, he feels like jeongguk can see him, but the feeling is gone just as quickly. he reminds himself not to be disappointed.
watching jeongguk dance is like watching an artist become the art, and taehyung is left breathless, as usual. the glimmer of the stage lights against jeongguk’s golden skin accentuates the lines of his arms, the swirls of black and red ink.
by the time the performance is over, the crowd is roaring, and taehyung can’t bring himself to join into the cheers because his tongue feels like sandpaper, and all his energy has been drained into focusing so much into the performance.
he feels tears threatening at the back of his eyes, because he’s so fucking proud of jeongguk, he knows how hard he works for his performances, stayed up late at night at the studio, studying and keeping jeongguk company as he dances.
jeongguk gets first place in his division, and taehyung isn’t surprised. somewhere between the end of the performance and the awards, taehyung manages to find his voice again, and cheers loudly when jeongguk’s name is called.
he and jimin filter out of the auditorium along with everyone else, chattering and waiting for jeongguk to come out at the entrance. when taehyung spots him, he doesn’t even register his feet moving until he’s barrelling towards jeongguk and throwing himself into his arms.
“whoa--” jeongguk says in surprise, hands winding around taehyung’s middle as if on instinct.
“you were so good,” taehyung says, words muffled into jeongguk’s neck. he holds on for dear life, as though this one hug could sort out the mess of feelings inside him.
jeongguk laughs, picking taehyung up and spinning him around with the momentum of taehyung practically slamming into him.
“i’m so proud of you,” taehyung pulls away to say once jeongguk sets him down on his feet again, face burning, heart thudding in his chest. but jeongguk’s eyes are shining, and his smile is so bright.
“i’m glad you came,” jeongguk says. he’s still holding taehyung close, and taehyung considers stepping away, but he doesn’t want to.
“where’s my hug?” jimin asks, and taehyung practically jumps out of jeongguk’s arms.
“since when do you get hugs?” jeongguk shoots back, and jimin just grins.
“guess i’m not as special as taehyung,” he says, sniffling and pretending to wipe a tear from his eye.
and taehyung expects jeongguk to deny it, to make a joke or change the subject. but he doesn’t.
he doesn’t say a word.
taehyung can sense things changing. the realization is like dropping stones into a still pond, and they end up in taehyung’s stomach, heavy and ever-present, reminding taehyung that he’s falling in love with jeongguk.
it’s too easy for taehyung. everything changes and taehyung doesn’t even realize it until it’s too late.
because jeongguk is everything taehyung secretly wishes he could have, but knows he doesn’t deserve. taehyung reminds himself of that every day, and yet, he’s selfish, because everything jeongguk does makes him feel like he’s special, like he’s the only one. and he wishes so badly that he can be the only one, but that’s not fair to jeongguk. he can’t end up with someone like taehyung. he doesn’t deserve that.
but it’s so hard to remember that when taehyung trudges out of the admissions office late in the afternoon on fridays, only to see jeongguk standing outside, holding a double caramel hazelnut macchiato with chocolate sauce and a sandwich with extra gouda cheese, ready to walk him to the theater.
jeongguk asks whether taehyung’s psychology quiz went well, whether he’d heard about the new girls’ generation comeback, worries when taehyung doesn’t sleep well.
he always finds a way to come over when taehyung asks, and if he can’t, he lets taehyung tag along. sometimes taehyung goes with jeongguk to the gym when he doesn’t want to be alone in the apartment, and he sits and reads over his scripts and pretends not to watch jeongguk working out without a shirt. jeongguk is so attractive it almost physically hurts, and taehyung finds himself fighting at the clawing want in his bones constantly. he can’t think about jeongguk like that.
he’d never wanted someone so badly, but it feels like it’s deeper than just that. it’s the way the air leaves his lungs when jeongguk smiles. it’s the flushing warmth that he gets when jeongguk puts his arm around his shoulders or lets taehyung sleep against his shoulder when they’re technically supposed to be studying.
he values jeongguk so much, always beyond grateful to have him in his life, and the last thing taehyung wants to do is drive jeongguk away. so he keeps all this to himself. and he’s miserable, because the word love is at the tip of his tongue, ready to spill out, every time he’s with jeongguk.
taehyung wishes the feelings will go away soon, but he’s terrified, because he’s never felt them so deeply before. this is almost new territory-- he’d only felt this way once before, and that time had ended in disaster. and he doesn’t want to lose jeongguk like that.
“i have a special announcement!” professor bang says, walking up onto the stage. the cast and the crew have wrapped up the last dry rehearsal for the show, and they had all decided to stay until two to make sure everything was running smoothly for dress rehearsals starting next week.
taehyung slings his backpack over his shoulder and turns his attention to the stage. he’s worn down to the bones lately, staying later and later for rehearsals, taking on more tours so he doesn’t have to worry about work during finals. he’s on his last thread, and he feels like he’ll fall apart at any given moment.
“i’ve just been informed that we will have a very special guest for opening night,” he says, and a murmur ripples through the theater.
“most of you won't know him, but many of the fourth years in this room probably remember kim seokjin?”
a chill runs up taehyung’s spine.
“he was one of the most gifted graduates of the program. he's been performing on broadway for the last couple of years,” professor bang continues, and taehyung’s throat tightens. his heart feels like it’s going to burst out of his chest with how hard it hammers against his ribs.
“he’s coming to visit for a week, and it just so happened to fall on the week of the musical! isn’t that amazing?”
the mood in the room rises, buzzing with excitement, but taehyung’s world is crashing around him. everyone else is in heaven, but he’s in his own personal hell.
“he’ll be coming to opening night, so keep that in mind as we dive into the last leg of rehearsals. we want to show our best face, right?”
there’s a murmur of agreement from the students.
“perfect! thank you all for staying so late tonight. you’re dismissed!”
but taehyung can’t get his legs to work. he just stares at the stage blankly, trying to register the fact that kim seokjin is coming to his performance. the panic bubbles up and taehyung suddenly has the urge to tear at his skin.
his phone buzzes in his back pocket, and he takes it out with shaky fingers. he registers jeongguk’s name on the caller id, and he accepts the call.
“hey, tae. how was rehearsal? did they make you stay late?”
taehyung blinks, not even thinking to respond, he just clings to the sound of jeongguk’s voice, gruff with what must have been sleep.
the auditorium is empty. taehyung doesn’t know how long he’d stood there.
“taehyung are you crying?” jeongguk’s voice is thick with worry, and taehyung doesn’t realize he’s sobbing until jeongguk asked. he hates crying in front of people, but he can’t bring himself to stop.
“taehyung where are you? i’m coming to pick you up. are you still at the theater?”
“n-no,” taehyung whispers. “no, don’t, jeongguk don’t.”
“can i come over?” taehyung asks.
“i’ll come get you.”
“no,” taehyung gulps, raising his free hand to wipe at the tears streaming down his face. “no, i’ll walk. i’ll walk. i don’t--” i don’t want to be a burden.
“taehyung, it’s fine, i’m--”
but taehyung ends the call and turns off his phone, tossing it in his backpack before forcing himself to turn from where he’d been standing in the middle of the aisle, and leaving the theater.
he knows the way to jeongguk’s place well-- it’s a fifteen minute walk to the on-campus apartments, and taehyung uses the time to let out all his tears, sobbing into the night.
taehyung makes it to jeongguk’s place faster than he thinks, and his knuckles are pale white when he raises them up to knock on the door. jeongguk opens the door within a few seconds, like he’d been waiting at the door.
jeongguk’s clad only in a pair of black sweatpants, unstyled hair hanging over his head, and his eyes are dark with worry. for a moment, they just stand there, on either side of the threshold.
“taehyung…” jeongguk says his name like taehyung’s going to fall apart, and maybe he does.
“jeongguk,” taehyung sobs, the panic rising up again, and jeongguk doesn’t spare another moment to reach out and pull taehyung inside. with the door closed behind them, jeongguk gathers taehyung’s shaking form into his arms, and taehyung melts.
“i’m sorry. i’m so sorry. i just. i’m so--”
“shh, taehyung,” jeongguk whispers into taehyung’s hair, rubbing his back slowly.
“i’m sorry, i’m--”
“taehyung,” jeongguk says taehyung’s name with the utmost care, one of his arms coming up to wind around taehyung’s neck and cradle the back of his head. taehyung buries his face into jeongguk’s shoulder, still shaking, but something about the lingering scent of tom ford cologne on jeongguk’s skin calms him. he rubs his nose against the crook of jeongguk’s neck, desperate for more, and jeongguk just holds him closer.
he doesn’t know how long they stand there, but eventually his feet begin to ache, and he shifts his legs, stepping back a little. jeongguk pulls back, peering down at taehyung’s tear-streaked face.
“you should take a shower. do you want to?” jeongguk asks softly. there’s a tenderness to his voice that taehyung’s ever heard before. he vaguely considers the circumstances, but his entire brain feels like mush. so he nods.
jeongguk leads him slowly to his bathroom, like he’s afraid taehyung will fall over. “i’ll get you something to wear. just. stay here, okay?”
taehyung wonders where else he’d go. hoseok was away at a dance camp, and yoongi's probably holed up at his studio. the last thing he wants to be is alone right now.
jeongguk comes back with a pile of clothes and a towel and sets them down on the sink. “let me know if you need anything, yeah?” taehyung nods slightly. jeongguk casts him one more look before stepping out, closing the door behind him. taehyung doesn’t make to lock it.
a warm shower feels good. and jeongguk’s body wash feels even better, the scent of him clinging to taehyung’s skin. but jeongguk’s clothes feel the best. taehyung slips on a black sweater (he recognizes it as the one jeongguk had been wearing that first day they had met, when he hadn’t given taehyung a high five), boxers, and sweatpants. but the sweater is so large against taehyung’s thin frame, so he forgoes the pants and just slips on the boxers.
there’s a soft knock on the door. “almost done?” jeongguk asks from the other side.
“done,” taehyung responds, albeit softly, but jeongguk manages to hear him.
“can i come in?” jeongguk’s voice is tentative, like he doesn’t know whether he’s saying the right things.
taehyung watches as the door opens slowly and jeongguk walks in. he feels jeongguk’s gaze on him, and sees him visibly gulp, before settling a blank expression on his face.
“you’re hair’s still wet,” he notes. taehyung shrugs. he’s so tired. “come here,” he says, grabbing the towel from the counter, and taehyung steps closer so jeongguk can drape the towel over his head and rub gently.
jeongguk’s touch is so gentle, so careful, like taehyung’s glass, and he really feels like it. his whole body convulses in a shiver, and feels the tears prickling again, but for a different reason.
“jeongguk,” taehyung mumbles, and it’s not a question. not one that has an answer. he tugs at the hem of the sweater, and steps closer, until they’re chests are pressed together. jeongguk slowly pulls the towel away from taehyung’s head and sets it down.
“you’re tired,” jeongguk says, bringing a hand up to run through taehyung’s hair, pushing his hair back, away from his face.
“can i stay here tonight?” taehyung knows he’s being nothing but selfish. he’d made jeongguk worry. he’d kept him up. now he’s asking to stay. but he needs jeongguk. right now, he feels like he’s going to spiral down if jeongguk lets go.
jeongguk’s still combing through taehyung’s hair. “you think i’d let you leave my sight right now?” his voice is light, and it alleviates some of taehyung’s worry.
“i’m tired,” taehyung says.
jeongguk lets out a soft laugh. “i know, i just said that.”
his hand slides down to taehyung’s face, cupping it gently and brushing a thumb gently over his cheek, catching a stray tear. taehyung thinks that he could kiss jeongguk like this, with their face only inches apart. but he holds back. he’s not that selfish.
they pull apart just enough for jeongguk to take his hand and lead him to his room. he pulls the covers back enough for taehyung to slide into bed, and pulls them up over him.
“where are you going?” taehyung asks, when jeongguk steps back, making to leave.
“you need to sleep.”
“so do you.”
“i’ll sleep on the couch,” jeongguk says dismissively. taehyung gulps.
“stay with me,” he feels so fucking selfish, staring up at jeongguk, who looks like he’s having a debate with himself. “please?” taehyung doesn’t know how he’s going to fall asleep tonight, or the night after that, or the night after that. but for now, he just wants to feel jeongguk’s arms around him.
“okay,” jeongguk says quietly. his voice is level, the way he makes it when he doesn’t want anyone to know what he’s thinking. “give me a sec though.”
taehyung watches jeongguk slip out of the room, and he hears the faint click of jeongguk switching off all the lights. he’s back in a minute, and slips in next to taehyung.
“jeongguk…” taehyung says, turning to lie on his side and face jeongguk. he hopes his eyes can convey what he wants right now, because he sure as hell doesn’t know how to say it out loud.
but jeongguk gets him. he can read taehyung like an open book. so he scoots closer, and gathers taehyung into his arms. taehyung melts into him, burying his face into the crook of jeongguk’s neck and tucking his hands between their chests. jeongguk sighs and tangles their legs together, one arm thrown around taehyung’s waist, and the other tucked under taehyung’s head.
it’s quiet for a moment, both of them trying to get used to the closeness, the intimacy. jeongguk runs his fingers through taehyung’s hair again, and taehyung wonders whether jeongguk can feel how fast his heart is beating.
“do you want to talk about it?” jeongguk asks hesitantly. at the mention of it, a sharp pang of anxiety shoots through taehyung, and he curls himself further into jeongguk, breathing deeply, because the smell of jeongguk is so incredibly soothing.
“no,” taehyung says quietly. “sorry,” he adds to the end.
“don’t be sorry. it’s alright.”
“i’m sorry,” taehyung repeats, and jeongguk just sighs again, pressing a soft kiss on the top of taehyung’s head.
and taehyung does sleep. for a few precious hours, curled up into jeongguk, taehyung really forgets.
taehyung feels so warm. his entire body is relaxed, and after a moment, he registers that he’s not in his own bed. he tries not to panic, because there’s a hand on his back, rubbing at the skin in soothing circles.
eventually, he lets his eyes flutter open, and he’s greeted with golden skin and black ink patterns, and the smell of tom ford cologne. his heart splutters for a moment, realizing where he is, and who he’s with.
“morning,” jeongguk says softly. taehyung pushes his head back and angles up, to see jeongguk staring down at him, gaze tender and gentle, like the fingers brushing against the skin of his back.
there’s a lump in taehyung’s throat, and he can’t form any words. jeongguk looks so beautiful right now, and taehyung wants to get lost in this feeling of being in his arms.
he slides out one of his hands from between their chests to touch jeongguk’s face gently, like he’s not sure whether this is real or not. it surely must be a dream, because there’s no other way taehyung could find himself in this situation.
he runs his thumb along jeongguk’s jaw, up to his cheekbone, then down again, to the corner of his lips before stopping. jeongguk, having gone still under taehyung’s touch, takes the pause to press his hand flat against taehyung’s back and push them closer. he tilts his face down to press their foreheads together.
taehyung’s eyes flutter shut, and feels jeongguk’s lips brush against his eyelids, before trailing down his nose, to the corner of his mouth, and then the feeling is gone. taehyung’s eyes open in surprise, to see jeongguk looking at him with what taehyung had been afraid of all along-- doubt.
and the realization tears taehyung out of whatever sense of peace he had been feeling, replacing it with crushing reality. and right now, he’s in jeongguk’s arms, but jeongguk doesn’t want him there.
seokjin was right all along. no one will ever want taehyung.
“i’--” taehyung starts to say, but the words get lodged in his throat. he shoves weakly at jeongguk’s chest, and suddenly the desperation rises to the surface. he doesn’t want to be touched, he doesn’t want to be held he doesn’t need--
“taehyung?” jeongguk looks bewildered, frozen in place as taehyung scrambles out of bed, gathering his clothes from the table where jeongguk had set them last night. he pulls them on frantically and slings his backpack over his shoulder.
“i made a mistake. i’m sorry. i’m sorry i bothered you i’m sorry i wasted so much of your time, i’ll just--”
he feels hands wrap around his arms, and jeongguk turns taehyung around gently. “what are you talking about?”
“i’m so stupid, jeongguk. i can’t believe i let myself…” i can’t believe i let myself fall in love with you.
“what are you saying? taehyung, stop scaring me,” jeongguk’s voice his rough with worry.
taehyung just winces, because the words sound harsh. he can feel his eyes welling up, and the panic blurs his rationale.
“i’m sorry i scared you. i’m just really sorry. i’m sorry. i’m sorry i’m a burden, i just keep fucking up with you. i’m just wasting your time and--”
“taehyung!” jeongguk says sharply, eyes dark, fingers digging into taehyung’s biceps, and taehyung yanks himself free, stepping back. jeongguk’s eyes widen with guilt.
“don’t, jeongguk. it’s fine. just,” taehyung’s chest heaves with a loud sob. “we need to stop. i need to--” he lets out a broken cry. “i’m sorry. i can’t do this. i can’t do this. i’m sorry.”
jeongguk is stone still, face devoid of any emotion when taehyung dares look at him.
“i don’t want to see you anymore.”
the words feel like poison on taehyung’s tongue, but he forces them out. “i’m sorry i wasted your time, jeongguk. i just wasted your time.”
and with that, he walks out of jeongguk’s apartment and into the morning sun. he digs out his phone from his backpack, and it feels like it takes an eternity it to turn on.
when it does, he dials the number without even thinking about it.
yoongi answers on the second ring. “what’s up, kiddo?”
“y-yoongi hyung. can you come pick me up?”
“what happened between you and taehyung last week?” hoseok asks gently, managing to get jeongguk alone in an empty dance room. jeongguk looks so tired, so defeated.
“you should ask him, because i don’t have a clue,” jeongguk says sharply. his voice is bitter, but his eyes are sad. he’d been zoning out the entire workshop in the morning. two days ago he’d completely missed all the classes he had to teach.
hoseok watches jeongguk with careful eyes. “did he tell you anything?”
jeongguk shakes his head. “he just… i called him around two in the morning, and he was crying. he came to my place, and god hyung you should have seen him. he looked like he was going to break into a million pieces if i touched him. i didn’t know what to do.”
and jeongguk looks so distraught, voice catching in his throat. “he cried so much. i’ve never seen him so upset. he just,” jeongguk scrunches his face up, like he’s the one in pain. “i just held him while he fell asleep.”
“that’s all?” hoseok asks. jeongguk starts to shake his head yes, but his eyes widen in realization.
“i-in the morning. i just. he was looking at me like--” jeongguk struggles to find the words. “i just wanted to kiss him. i wanted to kiss the pain away, even though that sounds so fucking cheesy. but i didn’t know if that’s what taehyung wanted. i mean, why would he want me? he’s too good for me.”
takes off his snapback to card his fingers through his hair. “i didn’t kiss him. i wanted to, so bad but i didn’t want him to freak out. but he freaked out, and he kept apologizing, and he said he didn’t want to be a burden…” jeongguk looks at hoseok, lost. “why would he say something like that, hyung?”
hoseok lets out a sharp exhale.
“okay, jeongguk, i’m going to tell you something that only yoongi and i know about, alright?”
jeongguk nods hesitantly.
“i’m only telling you this because i know how much you care about taehyung. you want to fix things, right?”
jeongguk nods again.
hoseok sighs. “taehyung’s freshman year, there was this guy, his name was seokjin. he was a pretentious theater major, and taehyung was just really starstruck,” the memory of it makes hoseok’s heart lurch. “you know how taehyung is, right? he only ever sees the good in people. always giving people the benefit of the doubt. well, seokjin saw him as an easy target.”
jeongguk visibly gulps, and he starts to see where this is going.
“seokjin used taehyung in every way possible. taehyung was more like a personal slave than a boyfriend. yoongi and i tried to warn him but… like i said, you know how taehyung is. he just took it with a smile. he thought he was proving that he deserved seokjin’s love.”
the words make jeongguk wince. “but he doesn’t have to prove himself, hyung! that’s the thing. he’s perfect. taehyung is perfect the way he is, why would anyone want to--” he trips over his own words in anger.
“it was terrifying to watch, honestly. but taehyung was happy. he was worked to the bone, but he just… wanted someone to love him as much as he loved them, i guess.” just saying the words aloud is difficult.
“and then after graduation, seokjin dropped him, just like that. said taehyung was too clingy. that he was a burden. too weird, an embarrassment. that no one would ever love him. and then he moved away and sucked everything out of taehyung as he went.”
“f-fuck,” jeongguk stammers, nails digging violent red marks into his palms.
“he hasn’t been with anyone since. he’s afraid that everything’ll be one-sided. that he really isn’t good enough for anyone.”
hoseok looks at jeongguk closely, watching his reaction, the anger and frustration swimming in his eyes.
“but. we both know that’s not true.”
“of course it’s not,” jeongguk hisses.
“seokjin is going to be in town next week, for the opening week of the musical. the theater department is making a huge deal of it.”
the color leaves jeongguk’s face. “no,” but suddenly, it makes sense-- taehyung’s distress after rehearsal, how on edge he was in the morning, everything, and the weight of it makes jeongguk’s shoulders slump.
“he loves you so much, jeongguk.”
confusion flickers across jeongguk’s face. “but he--”
“if he didn’t care about you as a person, as a friend, he wouldn’t have tried so hard to stay by your side, despite that making it hard for him to deal with his feelings. he doesn’t trust as easily as he did before seokjin. but he trusts you, jeongguk.”
“what do i do?” jeongguk asks, feeling helpless. hoseok considers him for a minute.
“show him how much he means to you. how much you care. fight for him, because seokjin never did.”
taehyung’s staring into his pizza again. he doesn’t even know why he bought it, since he hadn’t had an appetite all week. if it wasn’t for hoseok’s careful monitoring, he probably wouldn’t have eaten at all, just because he wouldn’t get hungry, and he’d forget.
he’d almost passed out during dress rehearsal, so he’d trudged himself to the cafeteria go at least buy something. but now he’s miserable, because the memories of jeongguk still linger here. all the nights spent eating fries here, jeongguk ordering tomatoes on his burger just so he could give them to taehyung. all the lunches spent chatting about their day. sometimes not talking at all, just studying, but doing it with each other.
it makes taehyung’s eyes sting with tears, and he bites down on his bottom lip in an attempt not to cry in a public place.
“hey, taehyung,” a voice says softly, and taehyung looks up in surprise to see jimin standing by his table, smiling hesitantly. everyone seemed to be walking on eggshells around taehyung lately, and he’d almost be angry, except he really does feel as fragile as people are treating him.
“mind if i sit here?”
taehyung’s eyes scan the almost abandoned cafeteria. “no, go for it.”
jimin murmurs a thanks before slipping into the seat across from him.
“how are you doing?” he asks.
taehyung lets out an empty laugh, and he rubs his eyes in exhaustion. “i feel like i’m on my last thread. the last few days have been one continuous panic attack. i almost fainted today.”
“oh,” is jimin’s response. taehyung vaguely wonders whether he’s divulged too much information, but he’s too tired to care.
“what’s up with you?” taehyung asks, remembering his manners despite everything.
jimin looks down at his lap. “i actually… wanted to talk to you about jeongguk, but i guess that’s not a good idea right now.”
the mention of jeongguk’s name makes taehyung’s heart lurch. he waves at the air dismissively. “no, it’s fine. go for it. in the wise words of john mayer, say what you need to say.”
“okay, if you’re sure,” jimin takes a deep breath. “you don’t have to say anything, okay? i just. i wanted to tell you what i was thinking, like, my thought process, yeah?”
taehyung stares at him blankly.
“so, jeongguk isn’t really a commitment type guy, you know? he’s really busy, he doesn’t have time for relationships, and in my personal opinion, he’s a total douche canoe. ten out of ten would not recommend dating.
“but. from the beginning, everything with you was so different? jeongguk likes hookups. they're convenient for him. i think he thought you might become one of those, before the party at hoseok hyung’s house. but you didn’t. and i expected him to drop it, but he didn’t. and even when it was clear nothing was going to happen between you two, he still didn’t drop it. he just… pushed those feelings aside to be a friend.”
taehyung tries to remember how to breathe. “why would he do that? if he wanted a fuck, why did he stick around as long as he did?”
“that’s the thing though,” is jimin’s response. “he doesn’t want to fuck you,” he pauses, considering his words. “i mean. he wants to fuck you. but it’s more like the slow make-love type,” jimin shakes his head. “that’s not the point!
“he really cares about you, taehyung. he’s a private guy, he only ever let me and my boyfriend namjoon into his life. but he let you in. he never lets anyone come to his dance competitions. but he invited you. he never smiles in public, but he laughs so much when he’s with you. and he’s a busy guy. his schedule isn’t very flexible, but he drops everything at a moment’s notice for you.”
with every word, taehyung feels more and more lightheaded, like he’s not quite attached to his body in this moment. he feels so small.
“and for a long time, it absolutely boggled my mind. i had no idea what was going on in his head,” jimin’s voice gets softer. “then i realized he’s in love with you.”
“that’s not true.”
the words slip out of taehyung’s mouth before he has a chance to stop them. but he can’t bring himself to believe what jimin is saying. all he knows how to do anymore is doubt.
jimin looks almost offended. “why would you doubt him like that? do you know how much he cares about you?”
“he… he never showed any sign… we almost kissed but then he hesitated…” taehyung’s mind runs a mile a minute, and he can’t form coherent sentences.
“maybe because he didn’t know if you felt the same way? maybe he didn’t want you to feel uncomfortable, or pushed into something you don’t want?”
"did you tell him that you wanted that?"
taehyung wonders what he wants. he wonders how he could be so selfish as to ask jeongguk to be his, to drag him into a mess that sooner or later, he’ll just want to get out of.
“he deserves better,” taehyung murmurs.
jimin looks insulted. “well then, he’s going to be single forever, because there's no one out there as good as you.”
opening night of the musical is both a terrible nightmare and a perfect dream. it's the highlight of taehyung's current acting career, he'd worked himself to the ground for this. within the last couple of days, though, he'd found the time to rest, and hoseok made sure he ate full meals. he feels stronger physically, but on the inside, he’s crumbling.
backstage, everyone is abuzz with the news that the great kim seokjin is, in fact, in the audience tonight. just the mention of his name threatens to send taehyung off the edge, but he’d received a massive flower bouquet about thirty minutes ago, an assortment of bright wildflowers, with a small note card set right in the center.
you know how proud i am of you, right? break a leg out there. can't wait to see the jazz hands.
taehyung had almost broken down, right then and there, but the tech had come into his green room to give him a time warning, so he stares into the mirror and breathes, forcing himself to compartmentalize-- he’ll deal with all the personal drama later.
taehyung feels like the show is over the minute he steps onto the stage. two hours pass by in the blink of an eye, and he doesn’t even notice, getting so immersed in his character and this universe that he forgets about kim taehyung for a while.
but then the curtain closes in front of him, after he’d taken his final bow-- the audience had given him a standing ovation-- and he’s being ushered back to the green room, wiping off what feels like a whole inch of makeup, and changing out of his costume and into pants and a sweater.
as he makes his way out of the backstage area and into the crowd of waiting friends, he’s handed two bouquets-- one from a pair of giggling second years, the other from professor bang-- and he wonders what he’s supposed to do with so many roses.
“taehyungie!” he hears hoseok call out, and he turns towards that direction and grins as hoseok bounds towards him, a smiling yoongi in tow.
“you were fantastic up there,” hoseok gushes, eyes alight with pride as he pinches taehyung’s cheeks.
“it was okay,” yoongi says, nodding in modest satisfaction, but taehyung beams, knowing it’s a big deal.
“aigoo, now you have to do this for two more weeks huh?” hoseok asks, picking at taehyung’s hair, now in chucks because of how much hairspray he'd had to use.
taehyung makes to respond, but a man calls out behind him.
his body freezes, because, despite three years, taehyung still remembers that voice. he turns slowly, and hoseok grips his arm.
“seokjin ssi,” taehyung replies, keeping his voice flat. seokjin raises a perfectly groomed eyebrow up at the formality.
“i’d like to talk to you alone for a moment, if you wouldn’t mind,” the last part is obviously directed at hoseok and yoongi, who currently flank taehyung. taehyung almost wants to say no, but he doesn't want to be a coward this time. he doesn't want to run away.
“sure,” taehyung says, voice still even. he steps forward and turns his head towards his hyungs. “i’ll see you both later? thank you for coming to see me tonight.”
“wouldn’t have missed it for the world, taehyung,” yoongi practically growls, still glaring at seokjin. taehyung forces himself to smile.
“lets go, yoongi,” hoseok tugs on the older man’s arms. “we’ll see you at home, taehyung.”
and then taehyung is left alone, with the man who had haunted him for the last three years.
“your performance was good,” seokjin says. taehyung, although taken aback, goes to thank him, but he never as a chance to talk. “i was very surprised.”
taehyung should have anticipated a back-handed compliment.
“you’ve grown up quite nicely, taehyung.”
the way seokjin eyes him now makes taehyung feel physically sick.
“no, not really. growing up is boring. and i don’t live to please you, seokjin. quit talking like anyone actually cares what you think.”
taehyung had never once retaliated against seokjin, he never said no. even when seokjin almost crushed him into a million pieces, he still never said a word against him. but jimin had given him a lot to think about it (and he'd spent his time thinking instead of sleeping, to be honest), and he realizes he's sick of letting other people dictate what he can and cannot have. it feels like a massive victory.
taehyung’s response obviously catches seokjin off-guard, who obviously hadn’t expected any sort of resistance. he splutters for a moment, trying to formulate an adequate response.
“hey babe,” taehyung almost jumps a mile into the air when jeongguk steps up next to him, sliding a protective hand around taehyung’s waist.
jeongguk just smiles down at him serenely, like everything's okay, before cocking his head at seokjin. “is this guy bothering you?”
it takes a moment for taehyung to realize what jeongguk is trying to do, and he’s half relieved, and half embarrassed, because hoseok must have told jeongguk about seokjin.
“excuse me,” seokjin cuts in. “i am not some guy,” one thing taehyung can always count on is seokjin’s massive ego. “i’m kim seokjin, it’ll do you well to remember that name.”
jeongguk frowns at him for a moment, as though considering it. “oh, you’re that kim seokjin.”
seokjin nods in satisfaction.
“yeah, my dance major friends told me about you,” jeongguk winces. “yikes.”
the look of mortification that crosses seokjin’s face increases taehyung’s life expectancy by at least three years.
jeongguk turns back to taehyung, all smiles again. “it’s getting late, babe. we should get going.”
taehyung can only nod. he doesn’t spare a glance at seokjin as he turns and lets jeongguk lead him away. once they’re out of the vicinity, though, taehyung stops in his tracks.
jeongguk pauses and looks expectantly at taehyung.
“why did you do that?”
jeongguk looks like he’s debating what to say.
“i wanted to knock the guy down a peg,” is his simple response.
“why?” taehyung repeats.
jeongguk sighs. “because anyone who makes the most amazing guy on the face of this earth feel like he’s not worth it, definitely earned it. and more, actually. but i decided to let him live.”
taehyung looks down, eyebrows pulled together in a frown. the conflicting emotions feel like a vortex inside him. “you didn’t have to do that.”
jeongguk steps closer, and brings a hand up to tilt taehyung’s chin up to hold his gaze.
“but i wanted to. that’s the thing, taehyung. everything i do, i do because i genuinely want to. because you deserve that, and so much more.”
and there it is again-- the feeling of dropping stones into a still pond, heavy and disruptive. but the ripples are so beautiful. and no body of water can stay still for long.
they do head home-- well, jeongguk’s home, anyway-- in relative quiet. taehyung’s trying to sort out his thoughts, his feelings, what he wants. it takes only a minute really, considering how close jeongguk’s place really is in relation to the theater.
this routine is familiar to taehyung, walking up the stairs to the second floor, turning right and going three doors down to jeongguk’s door. but something feels different this time around.
“taehyung,” jeongguk says quietly, sitting down at one end of his couch. taehyung slips his bag off his shoulders before joining him. they sit in the quiet again, like they hadn’t quite left the car headspace. taehyung uses it to gather his words.
“i’m sorry,” he starts. jeongguk opens his mouth, but taehyung raises up a finger-- wait--, and jeongguk presses his lips together. “i’m sorry that i freaked out on you last week. you didn’t even know what was going on and i just… cut you out.
“but… i was just. i was really scared, you know? after what happened with seokjin, i just told myself not to do that again, because i didn’t want to be a burden or an annoyance to anyone.”
taehyung pauses for a moment, collecting himself. “and then i met you. and i just figured it was another stupid crush that i would get over. because i really wanted you to be in my life, but i knew that if it ever turned romantic, i’d probably lose you.”
he looks up to gauge his reaction, and jeongguk looks like he’s trying very hard to bite his tongue. “i just. i don’t want to lose you. but, i ended up doing the one thing i told myself not to do and fell in love with you. and that morning, when you almost kissed me and you hesitated, i just thought it was history repeating itself, someone realizing that i’m not good enough. and i didn’t want to deal with that heartbreak so i just cut it off,” taehyung laughs bitterly. “well, the joke’s on me, because it broke my heart anyway.”
he looks down at his lap. “so yeah. i’m sorry for ruining things.”
there’s a pause, as taehyung finishes what he had wanted to say.
“are you quite finished?” jeongguk asks. taehyung looks up at him in surprise.
“i-i… i guess. yeah.”
“okay good,” jeongguk says, before cupping taehyung’s face and pressing their lips together. taehyung lets out a strangled noise at the back of his throat, body tensing.
but then jeongguk pulls him closer, fingers brushing against the nape of taehyung’s neck, and tilts his head, slotting their mouths closer together. taehyung fumbles awkwardly, not knowing what to do with himself, much less his lips, considering he hadn’t kissed anyone since seokjin, and that was three years ago.
jeongguk is by far the superior kisser, and he makes taehyung feel so good in so many ways that he finally manages to relax, and after that, they finally start to find a solid rhythm. after what seems like an eternity, jeongguk finally pulls away. taehyung’s eyes are hooded, and he’s panting, in shock from being kissed quite literally breathless.
jeongguk nuzzles their noses together. “i wanted to do that for the longest time,” he confesses, and taehyung heart splutters. “did i hesitate that time?”
“no,” taehyung mumbles, unable to look jeongguk in the eye in sheer embarrassment. jeongguk leans in again, pressing a languid kiss to taehyung’s lips.
“am i starting to make myself clear?” jeongguk murmurs against taehyung’s mouth. he kisses him again. “i can say it out loud too, if you want me to.”
taehyung gulps, the familiar feeling of something buzzing working its way under his skin.
“kim taehyung. silly, outrageous, beautiful, amazing, kim taehyung,” jeongguk says, cupping taehyung’s face carefully. “i think i’ve smiled more genuinely since i met you, than i ever have in my entire life. you are literally the light of my life, and i’m falling in love with you. and i want to be with you, i want to cook for you and read ridiculous scripts with you and i just. i want to love you. is that clear enough?”
taehyung’s face is burning, and he can feel his eyes stinging with the threat of tears. “yeah,” he croaks, and it probably doesn’t sound too attractive, but he doesn’t care.
jeongguk kisses the corner of his mouth. “good,” he whispers against the skin, and taehyung shivers as jeongguk presses their foreheads together.
for the first time in almost forever, taehyung isn’t afraid of this intimacy.
“jeongguk?” he asks softly.
his grip on jeongguk’s arm tightens. “i want…” i want you.
taehyung doesn’t have to finish his sentence for jeongguk to know.
“are you sure?”
taehyung can smell the cologne on jeongguk’s skin. he wants to feel jeongguk's body pressed against his own.
they can’t go back from this moment, taehyung knows. once they cross this line, things will never be the same.
“yeah. i. taehyung...”
jeongguk leads them back to his room. its messier than taehyung remembers it, but he can hardly pick up on that detail when jeongguk’s got his hands underneath taehyung’s hoodie, pulling it up and over his head.
“jeongguk…” taehyung half-moans as jeongguk presses wet, open-mouthed kisses along his neck and collarbones and any exposed skin he can reach. he tugs at the hem of jeongguk’s own sweater insistently, and jeongguk steps back just long enough for taehyung to pull it off of him.
everything is measured and careful. taehyung is all desperation, skittering fingers and moans of surprise. but jeongguk sets the pace slow, calming taehyung’s shaking hands, working slowly.
they spend what seems like ages just touching each other, kissing each other. taehyung traces over the words inked into jeongguk's skin, before tracing them with his tongue. he thumbs at the ripples of jeongguk's abs, mouths at the muscle, before kissing back up jeongguk's chest, up his neck, and finding his lips.
jeongguk likes control, and taehyung has no qualms with giving it to him, and when jeongguk finally flips them around, taehyung's head bouncing on the mattress with the force of the impact, the dripping want in jeongguk's eyes steals taehyung's breath.
jeongguk is so good at this, getting taehyung worked up in the most painfully slow way, pressing him down against the mattress and coaxing his mouth open with a teasing tongue. his hands are warm over taehyung’s cold bare skin, all fire even though taehyung had once dubbed him the ice prince.
taehyung quivers against jeongguk, legs splayed open while jeongguk presses his fingers into him carefully, not caring enough to hold back the loud moans as jeongguk purposefully grazes his fingers against his prostate.
jeongguk takes his sweet time prepping taehyung, kissing taehyung dizzy while his fingers work, and he thinks he might have worked himself up in the process, swallowing all the sounds taehyung makes against him.
jeongguk slips on the condom and slicks himself up with practiced efficiency, and slings one of taehyung’s legs over his shoulder, before slowly sliding in. the sob that spills from taehyung is dripping with pleasure, and he arches his back when jeongguk slides out and back in. jeongguk lets out a growl, because he never thought he’d get to have taehyung like this-- under him, moaning out his name, writhing in the pleasure only jeongguk can bring him.
they go achingly slowly, jeongguk thrusting in deep and taking his time so he can watch taehyung fall apart, making sure taehyung feels good. and everything is quiet, save for taehyung’s moans and the rustle of sheets. when taehyung's hands become more frantic, jeongguk tangles his fingers into taehyung’s and pins them above his head, keeping his pace even and controlled.
“how do you feel?” jeongguk asks, voice rough with the exertion and the feeling of watching taehyung's moans spill past bright pink, wet lips. he works a hickey onto taehyung’s collar, matching the other several jeongguk had put there.
“good,” taehyung manages to say, before jeongguk angles his hips just right. “so… good. you, j-jeongguk.” taehyung can’t manage coherent sentences, so he wraps his arms around jeongguk’s neck to pull him into a kiss, hoping jeongguk will understand. "i love--"
and jeongguk does, of course, understand. he gets everything taehyung doesn’t say out loud. he brings up a hand to stroke taehyung's face, pushing back his sweat-matted bangs. taehyung looks so beautiful like this, and jeongguk's hips stutter for a moment .
“me too, baby.” jeongguk murmurs, taehyung shivering apart at that, and it doesn’t take him much longer. taehyung lets out a cry as he comes, throwing his head back as his climax hits, and he paints their torsos white.
jeongguk finishes when taehyung tightens around him, part of the aftershocks of the orgasm. he buries his face into taehyung’s neck, and they stay there for a minute, trying to catch their breath.
jeongguk only shifts when taehyung starts squirming, the come starting to dry. so jeongguk slips out of taehyung carefully and gets up to throw away the condom and get taehyung a towel.
once they’re clean, they settle back into bed, taehyung curled at jeongguk’s side, and they both stare up at the ceiling, lost in the feeling of each other.
“you know, i realized something,” taehyung says, breaking the silence.
“yeah? what’s that?”
taehyung smiles, sliding up to straddle jeongguk’s hips and press his hands against jeongguk's abdomen. “i never got my high five.”
jeongguk lets out a laugh of disbelief. “really? after all this time. after everything we’ve been through…”
taehyung lifts his hand up, wiggling his fingers. “i’m waiting.”
jeongguk scoffs. “the things i do for you, seriously,” but he’s pulling himself up, careful not to jostle taehyung, until they’re at eye level, chests pressed together.
“high five!” taehyung prompts, and jeongguk rolls his eyes, but high fives taehyung anyway. but when taehyung moves to bring his hand down, jeongguk catches it, bringing his own hand down to wrap around taehyung’s wrist so he can press a kiss to taehyung’s palm. taehyung’s fingers curl around jeongguk’s face almost instinctively.
“how are my high fiving skills?” jeongguk asks teasingly.
taehyung grins, leaning forward to peck jeongguk on the lips. “i love them. i love you.”